2006 Bimota SB8K Santamonica - Past Perfect - First Ride

2006 Bimota SB8K Santamonica

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Jeremy Henrie

I never thought I'd get to wear my custom-painted Bimota helmet again. It was given to me by Shin Kondo of Japan's Corse Corporation when I raced his SB8R at Daytona in March 2000, and I wore it once more while testing that bike's successor, the SB8K, in Italy that June. But the very next morning, when practice started for that weekend's World Superbike round at Misano, the Bimota truck was nowhere to be seen. Drowning in debt from its failed Vdue two-stroke project, the company had gone out of business.

So it came as the best possible news when, six years later, I learned that not only was the Rimini-based manufacturer making motorcycles again, but its products would again be imported into the U.S. To celebrate that fact, Jean Marc Rousseau of the newly formed Bimota North America (www.bimotausa.com) invited select journalists to ride the 2006 models at brand-spanking-new Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah.

What I would have written back in 2000, had there been a point, was that the SB8K was the best twin-cylinder sportbike I'd ever ridden; more than a match for the reigning Ducati 996 and miles better than the rotary-shocked Suzuki TL1000R from which its engine was derived. It retained the SB8R's trick composite frame with twin aluminum spars and carbon-fiber swingarm plates but ditched the '80s-era tanktop snorkels in favor of a proper ram-air system. And the 2006 SB8K Santamonica, with its Ohlins 43mm fork and radially mounted Brembo brakes, is even better! With a claimed 142.6 horsepower in a package purportedly (and optimistically) weighing 385 pounds dry, it certainly gets out of its own way, especially compared to its Ducati 1000 DS-powered stablemates, the DB5 and Tesi 2D. Alas, it's a nearly decade-old design, and feels dated compared to the Ducati 999 developed in the interim.

Worse, the SB8K retails for a staggering $45,900-some $15K more than a top-shelf 999R and nearly twice the price of a 2000 SB8R. No wonder Bimota North America set up shop in an old bank-so they could keep the bikes in the vault. (No joke.) No matter how many trick carbon-fiber and CNC-machined aluminum bits it has, that's a lot of cash for a motorcycle that, truth be told, had its 15 minutes of fame when Anthony Gobert won the World Superbike round at Phillip Island six years ago.

Money has never been much of an obstacle to Bimota owners, however, and depending on the outcome of an ongoing debate, the SB8K could prove to be worth even more in the future. The factory wants to stay true to its roots one-upping the Japanese, but the North American importer would like to see 100 percent Italian products powered by Ducati V-twins. (An MV Agusta four was discussed and duly dismissed out of respect for Bimota founder Massimo Tamburini.) That means the SB8K could become prized by collectors as the last Bimota with a Japanese engine.

Me? I'm just glad I didn't make my helmet into a lamp.

2006
BIMOTA SB8K
SANTAMONICA
PRICE
MSRP
$45,900
ENGINE
Type
l-c 90-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement
DOHC, 8 valves
Displacement
996cc
Transmission
6-speed
CHASSIS
Weight
385 lb., claimed dry (175kg)
Fuel capacity
5.5 gallons (21L)
Wheelbase
54.7 in. (1390mm)
Seat height
31.9 in. (800mm)
By Brian Catterson
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